Aaron Hicks made it clear on Monday. His switch-hitting career is over. And it was his decision.
And Hicks’ name appeared in black on the lineup sheet in the Twins clubhouse before the game. Switch hitters are listed in blue, righthanded hitters in black.
“It’s confidence,” the center fielder said. “Definitely need confidence in this game.”
Hicks entered Monday batting .187 this season — .263 righthanded and .145 lefthanded. For his career, he was .227 as a righthanded hitter and .179 as a lefthanded hitter. The accumulation of failures as a lefthanded hitter led him to make a decision he said he had contemplated for some time.
“When you switch hit you have to worry about both sides,” Hicks said. “Now I’m just hitting righthanded. It is only one side I have to work on with certain stuff and do the same drills.”
Hicks looked awkward in his first at-bat against Rangers righthander Nick Tepesch in the second inning, striking out on breaking ball that was well off the plate. But Hicks came back with singles in his next two at-bats and finished 2-for-4 in the Twins’ 7-2 loss. He also was picked off first base after his first single; the Twins believe the umpires missed a balk by Tepesch on the play.
The biggest challenge for Hicks will be facing breaking pitches that are moving away from him instead of into him, which was the case when he batted lefthanded against righties.
“I saw a couple [breaking pitches],” he said. “It’s definitely different. It felt good today to actually see them.”
Hicks first phoned his agent, Joe Urbon, on Sunday night about dropping switch hitting. Urbon urged him to sleep on the subject and get back with him Monday. But Urbon then received a text from Hicks in the middle of the night. Hicks had made up his mind and was ready for change.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Hicks said. “For me, all I want is to produce for my team and do all I can to help this team win. I feel this is a decision that’s going to do that.”
Urbon phoned Twins assistant General Manager Rob Antony on Monday. Ten minutes later, manager Ron Gardenhire phoned Antony to tell him Hicks had just informed him of the decision.
Shouldn’t this be happening in the minors and not in the middle of a major league season?
“If we were in a perfect world right now, we’d be able to send him down to let him do this at the Triple-A level, but he’s our center fielder,” Gardenhire said. “We need him out there. We don’t have a replacement right now.”
The replacement would be Sam Fuld, but he still is recovering from a concussion.
Buxton still on shelf
Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton remains relegated to conditioning drills in Fort Myers, Fla., while his sprained left wrist heals. He initially sprained the wrist on March 16 during spring training, knocking him out until May 4. He reinjured the wrist on May 8 while sliding into home plate.
• Texas stole two bases in as many attempts Monday. Opponents are running with ease against the Twins, going 24-for-27 in stolen base attempts this season.
• Joe Mauer’s eighth-inning single ended his 0-for-20 streak against the Rangers.
• Eduardo Escobar was 2-for-3 and is batting .391 over his past 12 games. He also hit his 15th double.
• Chris Herrmann, who was sent to Class AAA Rochester on Sunday, will play some center field, Antony said. Herrmann already can catch, play first and the corner outfield positions.